JAKARTA: Indonesia is battling a second deadly disease, dengue fever, which continues to infect its population way past the average peak recorded earlier this year, after efforts to prevent the outbreak were sidelined by anti-COVID-19 restrictions.
According to the Health Ministry, as of Monday there were 68,000 dengue cases across the nation, resulting in 446 deaths.
Deserted tourism hotspots, such as Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara and Buleleng, Denpasar, and Badung in Bali are among the regions recording the most significant number of dengue infections.
COVID-19 cases were also on the rise in Bali, which had 1,080 cases as of Monday.
“Many hotels that are left empty may have become breeding grounds for mosquito populations,” Siti Nadia Tarmizi, the Health Ministry’s director for vector-borne and zoonotic diseases, told Arab News. “They have always been in check with regular mosquito larvae controlling measures but, with workers off duty, the efforts have been largely unchecked.”
She said that while Bali had always recorded a significant number of dengue cases, they had never been as high as this year.
“We encourage operators of hotels and places of worship to also conduct larvae busting efforts in addition to disinfecting their premises ahead of the reopening of tourism areas.”
In previous years, dengue fever season would have peaked by March or April. But this year the country is seeing a prolonged period of infections, with many cases still being recorded in June.
“Normally we would find less than 10 cases by June but, this year, we still find 100 to 500 cases every day so far, although the number of cases and fatalities year-on-year are not as high as June 2019, which recorded 105,000 cases and 727 deaths,” Tarmizi added.
Dengue fever first hit Indonesia in 1968, and the fatality rate had reached almost 50 percent. However, health authorities managed to control the outbreak and reduced the fatality rate to less than one percent over the years.
A spike in the dengue outbreak occurred in 2015, with authorities pulling out all the stops to prevent a recurrence.
But they are also likely to be dealing with double infection cases as the dengue outbreak is occurring in provinces that are most infected by coronavirus such as West Java, Jakarta, East Java, and South Sulawesi, Dr. Tarmizi said.
A chart from the Health Ministry has marked the whole of Java — Indonesia’s most populated island where 141 million of the country’s 270 million people live — in red, indicating that infections are high in the area.
The provinces located in Java, including the capital, Jakarta, West Java, and East Java are also the worst-hit by COVID-19.
Indonesia reported 954 new COVID-19 cases and 35 deaths on Monday, increasing the national total to 46,845, and the fatalities to 2,500, while Jakarta’s cases reached 10,098.
“While dengue can infect people of all ages, we have seen a trend of teenagers who are already in a critical phase being admitted (to hospitals),” Dr. Mulya Rahma Karyanti, a pediatrician, said during an online press conference on Monday.
The Indonesian Pediatric Society (IDAI) chairman, Aman Pulungan, has said that dengue fever is among a list of health problems that many Indonesian minors suffer from, making them among the most vulnerable to be infected by coronavirus.